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Ilima-Lei Macfarlane: ‘This Should Have Been a Title Fight’

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Ilima-Lei Macfarlane Bellator

With a perfect 3-0 record for the year thus far, Bellator flyweight Ilima-Lei Macfarlane has made a real name for herself in 2016.

Defeating Emily Ducote at Bellator 167 in Oklahoma on December 3 would be the near-perfect exclamation point on Macfarlane’s breakthrough year. The only thing missing is a flyweight title belt attached to the upcoming bout.

Like Macfarlane, Ducote has a perfect record inside the Bellator cage, with impressive submission wins over Bruna Vargas and Kenya Miranda moving her clear of the pack. Now the two meet as part of the Bellator 167 main card. The winner might not be wearing championship gold once the fight is over, but they will have cemented their status as Bellator’s number one flyweight.

“Each fight from here on out, because we’re so early on in our careers, each fight is our biggest fight.” acknowledged Macfarlane regarding the pivotal nature of the bout.

“I actually think that Ducote is the toughest opponent in the division, and that’s also like stylistically, because our styles are very similar.”

With five Bellator wins between them, and two submission wins a piece, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane vs. Emily Ducote could easily have been the promotion’s inaugural flyweight title fight. Macfarlane has not yet heard anything about when a belt will be up for grabs, but knows that a win over Ducote makes her impossible to ignore when that title is eventually introduced.

“Bellator hasn’t said anything to me at all. Everything I know is just based off of reports that have been on social media or something. But I do agree that the winner of this fight, they would be the frontrunner of this division.

“I also was thinking if they were gonna crown a champ, I believe Scott (Coker) wanted to crown one and in the past he said he wanted to crown one before the end of the year. I thought that if they were gonna stick to that plan then this should have been a title fight because again, Ducote I think is the toughest in the division right now.”

The importance of this bout, combined with the ongoing development of Macfarlane’s young career led to the fighter embarking on her toughest fight camp to date. In top ten bantamweight Liz Carmouche, Macfarlane had one heck of a training partner in San Diego.

“This camp has definitely been my most intense camp. It’s been brutal. I did it with Liz Carmouche who is one of the top ten in the UFC, so her camps are gonna be at that level. So the fact that I did my camp with her, and I also started it earlier, she fought like two/three weeks before my fight, so my camp was extended.

“My head trainer was like ‘yeah you know, you’re at that level now, so that’s why we’re amping everything up. Like this is the level of camp that you’re gonna be doing from here on out.’ And that was because Ducote is my biggest fight to date.”

Watching Macfarlane’s quick career progression has been a thrilling experience. Memories of her professional debut against “Soccer Mom” Katie Castro are left in the past, as Bellator has quickly become the fighter’s home.

Bellator provides a big platform on Spike TV for fighters to showcase their talent, especially for one so young in their professional career. Macfarlane only made that pro debut in January 2015. By August of that year she was stepping into the Bellator cage to face Maria Rios. It is a transition that Macfarlane has been able to take in her stride.

“It’s been so easy and that’s really because of Bellator itself. The staff is awesome, I know everybody there. They make me feel so comfortable, and they have so much confidence in me and a lot of faith in me so I just feel very supported by them.

“It’s also been because of my team and my corner, ya know my coaches are the ones that really have been handling a lot of my career moves and I trust them with everything. They know exactly what they’re doing. They’ve been in the business for years so, everything has been relatively stress free on my end.”

The Bellator-Macfarlane relationship has been a mutually beneficial one. While the fighter is quick to point out that she considers the promotion to be her home, both now and for the future, Macfarlane’s performances have also provided Bellator with a breakout star in a division they are keen to grow.

So when the offer came in, there was no doubt in Macfarlane’s mind that Bellator was where she wanted to fight. Her Hawaiian heritage played a part in that too.

“One of the main reasons too that I wanted to fight for Bellator was I was going to be a part of this new wave of Bellator fighters. Also I would be the first Hawaiian female fighter. In Invicta we have Raquel (Pa’aluhi) and Rachael (Ostovich), in the UFC we have Kailin Curran, and so I was like yeah, there’s actually no female fighters from Hawaii in Bellator. I kind of thought that I would be able to represent and make a good name for myself in Bellator.

“I love Bellator. I would love to stay with them. I do consider them my home. This is where I’m supposed to be. They’re the ones that took a risk on me. They took a chance signing this viral “fighter”, so I love it here.”

After defeating Rios by decision in her promotional debut, Macfarlane went on to submit Amber Tackett in her sophomore outing. That set up a bout with Rebecca Ruth, who was coming off a big win over Lena Ovchynnikova. Macfarlane went in the underdog, but emerged with another submission victory.

Against Ducote in Oklahoma, Macfarlane will step into the cage with the added pressure of being the favourite. It is a pressure that she feels will even itself out on fight night.

“I enjoy being the underdog, I enjoy not having all that pressure on me. I would prefer that ya know, but I think there is kind of a trade off because I might be coming into this as the favourite, however I’m also going into her hometown where I’m not gonna be the favourite, so I think it evens itself out in the end.”

With hundreds of thousands of fans watching live on Spike TV, and with divisional bragging rights on the line, Macfarlane was clear about what we should expect on December 3. The unexpected.

“Our gameplan for this is so all over the place, just because we don’t know where this fight is gonna go, so I think you guys might be in for an unpredictable fight to be honest. I think it’s just gonna come down to who shows up that day, who wants it more, who has more heart, just because we are so similar stylistically.”

If her words ring true, and given the previous Bellator performances from both fighters there is no reason for doubt, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane vs. Emily Ducote will be Bellator 167’s showstealer.

The winner won’t be walking out of the cage with a championship belt, but there will be no doubting their position as Bellator’s number one flyweight. If McFarlane is successful on December 3, that’s a pretty good place to be in as her second year as a pro comes to an end.

Bellator 167 takes place December 3 at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The event is headlined by a lightweight rematch between Patricky “Pitbull” Freire and Derek Campos. The Ilima-Lei Macfarlane vs. Emily Ducote bout will be part of the main card which airs like on Spike TV.

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Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Refereeing’s Loss is Bellator’s Gain

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When former Bellator color commentator Jimmy Smith left the organization last week, not many expected MMA veteran referee, John McCarthy, to be his replacement. There is little doubt that McCarthy will make an excellent color analyst. However, it’s hard not to be disappointed that the sport is losing one of the best and most experienced referees.

McCarthy has been part of the fabric of MMA and the UFC in particular, since 1993. He was hugely influential in creating and enforcing the rules of the cage that have changed MMA into the respected sport it is today. Back in early to mid-nineties, the ‘sport’ was fairly labeled by some critics as ‘human cockfighting’. Without McCarthy as an instrumental player in changing regulations and rules, who knows where the MMA would be today.

What we have grown to appreciate most about McCarthy over the past two decades is how simple he makes this tough job look, which can be credited to years of experience and dedication. To the layman, it would appear that it’s a simple as stopping the fight when a fighter is knocked out or submitted. MMA fans know there’s a lot more to it than that.

It’s difficult to remember a moment in recent memory where McCarthy has let a fight go too long, or even stopped a fight too soon. His timing is almost always perfect. His composure and rationale in the cage are unmatched. When McCarthy is the third man in the Octagon we know the fighters are in safe hands.

It’s worth reiterating how important McCarthy is in maintaining the standard of referring and judging in the sport. The sport of MMA is still very young and is growing rapidly and so are the rules. The former LAPD police officer created his own training school known as C.O.M.M.A.N.D. The course teaches the next generation of MMA referees and judges, and there is no better person to be educated by. Referees must complete this or a similar course run by Herb Dean to be licensed as an official.

Former fighter Frank Trigg, who has pursued refereeing since his career wound down, has taken the course. He recently appeared on The MMA Hour to explain just how tough C.O.M.M.A.N.D is. It took Trigg three attempts to pass, emphasizing just how difficult a career path officiating is.

While ‘Big John’ as he is more affectionately known hasn’t completely left refereeing, he will likely no longer be seen in the cage at the biggest shows. The pool of referees trusted with the big title fights is rather small. Normally McCarthy and Herb Dean are tasked with the important title fights.

It’s not all bad that McCarthy is stepping aside for the time being. The likes of Mark Smith, Jason Herzog, and Chris Tognoni have all shown they are capable officials. There is now a great opportunity for them to move into the main event slots. There are also the likes of Yves Lavigne, Mike Beltran and Marc Goddard who can be trusted to referee the big fights.

While it is surprising, it’s understandable that McCarthy is looking for new career ventures. It is no secret that MMA referees are poorly paid relative to other sporting officials. Las Vegas often discloses referee pay when assignments are announced. The pay tends to range between $1000 and $2000 for the night. Trigg explained on The MMA hour that there is no money in becoming a referee and that most also have full-time jobs. McCarthy’s passion for the sport of MMA has been the biggest incentive for refereeing. It is totally understandable that he would take a bigger payday and put all his knowledge of the sport to good use in the commentary booth.

McCarthy will almost certainly be as dedicated to his new job as he was with his refereeing duties. He can also offer a fascinating insight into the officiating of a fight that nobody else can offer. If there wasn’t already an excuse to watch Bellator 192 on January 20th, headlined by Rory MacDonald vs Douglas Lima, then there most definitely is now.

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Chael Sonnen vs. Rampage Jackson the new main event at Bellator 192

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Bellator is getting ready to kick off their heavyweight grand prix at Bellator 192 on January 20th. The grand prix gets started with two former UFC greats who have now set their sights on Bellator gold, Chael Sonnen and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. Today it was announced that this heavyweight matchup of two ordinarily light heavyweights will be getting the bump up to the main event. The reason for the change has not been announced.

The main event was scheduled to be the much anticipated welterweight matchup between champion Douglas Lima and former UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald. Bellator has been promoting this event as such the welterweight title fight would get top billing. Earlier this week the fighters involved in the main and co-main event were part of a conference call. At the time there was no mention of the switch to the lineup.

This fight between Sonnen and Jackson is just the first in a series of heavyweight fights leading up to the crowning of the Bellator heavyweight championship in December. There has been great interest shown in this heavyweight grand prix between fans and media, which could attribute to the last minute change.

Lima vs. MacDonald will now serve as the co-main event on January 20th. Lima, who has been with Bellator since 2011 has been accused of being overlooked by the organization. He has held the welterweight title since November 2016 and perhaps has not gotten the showcases he deserves. This event will take place at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

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